HMCS CORNER BROOK, currently in the Victoria Shipyards repair dock, will be the first of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) VICTORIA-class submarines to be equipped with a new, modern submarine mast system. The boat will complete the necessary work by 2020 and the current intention is for all four boats in the class to have the new systems installed by 2026.
The L3 Calzoni Universal Modular Mast (UMM) is similar to the one fitted to the US Navy VIRGINIA-class submarines, and was acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales programme. Masts are vital to the functioning of any submarine, providing air supply, communications, radar and periscope capability.
“This is a game changer,” said RCN Deputy Director Submarine Combat Systems, Lt-Cdr Darryl Gervis, referring to the current technological shortfall for Canadian submarines – the lack of a reliable high-speed satellite data link. The new technology puts Canada’s submarine programme on a new course. “What the UMM (when coupled with the Protected Military Satellite Communication (PMSC) antenna) will do is provide near real-time high-speed communications with shore. This will allow for improved picture and video transmission, and quicker transmission of messages, therefore reducing counter-detection opportunities as the submarine will spend less time with its mast out of the water.”
The new equipment will also include the ability to ‘plug-and-play’ a communications intercept suite antenna that will provide the class with that capability. This is because the UMM has two multi-purpose ports, like data ports on a computer, enabling other antennas and intelligence-gathering equipment to be swapped in and out to better suit the needs of a specific deployment or changing technology.
Deputy Commander, Operations, for the Canadian Submarine Force, Cdr Mike Mangin, is encouraged by the upgrade and says the UMM with PMSC will truly bring Canadian submarine communications capabilities into the modern era. “It improves the VICTORIA-class as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform [….] It increases our utility so much – the upgrades to the comms fit that UMM enables can be compared to using an old dial-up modem to one of today’s high-speed modems.”